Hashimoto and the Japanese right
Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto is considered by many to be the clear next prime minister of Japan. And he is certainly an interesting figure. He reminds some of former Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi. Hashimoto skillfully exploits people’s frustrations and resistance toward the establishment and makes sensational comments. If necessary, he doesn’t hesitate to make enemies to create a clear structure of confrontation. Hashimoto’s energy comes from dissatisfaction and uncertainty toward Japanese society and its prolonged economic slump.
His criticism of the political establishment resembles the spirit of late President Roh Moo-hyun and Seoul National University’s Ahn Cheol-soo, although they have completely different political tendencies. Hashimoto served as the governor of Osaka Prefecture, but last November he ran in the mayoral election.
During his campaign, some weekly newspapers exposed the “secrets” of his childhood. He grew up in a Burakumin slum, and his father, who was a member of the Yakuza gang, committed suicide when Hashimoto was in second grade.
Hashimoto responded on his Twitter, “I only learned about my father’s suicide after I grew up. But a child cannot choose his father. I am a public figure, so the media may make my stories public. But what about my three sons and four daughters? Can the media verify politicians without discretion?”
The public was sympathetic toward Hashimoto, and he went on to win in a landslide.
However, the increasing popularity of a politician who appeals directly to public sentiment is not desirable for not just his nation, but also its neighbors. Hashimoto’s politics are often referred to as “Hashism.” He has said, “What the Japanese politics needs now is dictatorship” and “Japan needs to become a nuclear power.” He declared that he would build an East Asian modern history center in Osaka during his term with the members of the Japanese Society for History Textbook Reform. The Liberal Education, a 41-year-old human rights movement monthly magazine, closed in March when Hashimoto cut off assistance.
The results of the diplomatic friction between Korea and Japan ignited by President Lee Myung-bak’s hard-line remarks have yet to play out. However, encouraging a politician like Hashimoto and silencing pro-Korean and neutral figures is a big loss. There are fewer and fewer people who can play as a buffer in Japan. Japan’s extreme rightists are eager and ready to fight, and the opportunity has been presented to them just in time.
*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
By Noh Jae-hyun